CATEGORY: FOC College Football

AUTHOR: PARRIS

HED:Favors, Brown will return this week for Mississippi State

By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE Mississippi State will roll out the welcome mat for two of its biggest defensive playmakers when the Bulldogs take on Central Florida Saturday.

Defensive end Greg Favors, the school's all-time sack leader, and strong safety Eric Brown will both start the 1:30 p.m., homecoming game against the Golden Knights.

Favors sustained a sprained medial collateral knee ligament against Georgia and missed State's win over Northeast Louisiana two weeks ago.

Brown sprained an ankle in the first quarter against South Carolina and missed the 47-0 loss at Georgia. Coaches wanted to hold Brown out of the Northeast game, but he played sparingly, entering in the fourth quarter. He immediately recovered a fumble which led to State's game-clinching touchdown. He also forced a fumble in the game.

Getting Favors and Brown for a full game should be a big boost for the Bulldogs.

"Let's put it this way," MSU defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn says, "take Mike Bobo and Hines Ward away from the Georgia offense and that would be about the same for our defense."

Dunn's defense experienced the fury of Georgia in a 47-0 loss. Kenzaki Jones started in Brown's place at Georgia.

For the season Brown has 26 tackles, a caused fumble, a forced fumble, two pass break-ups and three sacks.

Favors, a high school quarterback, was the nation's No. 3 returning sack man as the season began after leading the SEC with 12.5 sacks in 1996. His two sacks against South Carolina made him State's career leader.

In five games this season, Favors has five sacks, putting him near last year's pace. He's also forced four fumbles and recovered one.

"They're our big playmakers," Dunn said. "Without them we haven't been making too many plays. We need to get them healthy and on the field at the same time."

The Bulldogs will need to big defensive plays against Central Florida to keep Golden Knights quarterback Daunte Culpepper from making big offensive ones.

Culpepper is passing for 268.6 yards a game and is an equal threat running the ball.

Dunn says he's been at work on Central Florida "for a couple of weeks" and has been more impressed with Culpepper's feet than his arm.

"He had a 75-yard run against Kent (a 59-43 UCF win) that was awesome. He got loose in the middle of the field and outran everybody ... defensive backs, wide receivers, everybody," Dunn said.

Now is a great time to get all the players back on the defensive side of the ball, Favors says.

"If we'd have had a game last week I could have played," he said. "Getting everybody back we have a chance to pick up where we left off from early in the season. There's a lot of excitement and enthusiasm on defense right now."

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